IN THE NEWS
AQUAFARM RECEIVES JOBS GRANT
VERO BEACH — Lemnature AquaFarms, a plant-based ingredient supplier to the food market, has received a jobs grant as it expands its operations in Indian River County.
The grant was unanimously approved by the Indian River County Commission and pays up to $7,000 per new job created, based on the average wages paid to new hires. At least five new jobs must be created, paying a minimum of 75% of the county’s average annual wage. Based on county staff calculations, the company is eligible for up to $200,000 in grant funds. The award is paid out over a period of 3-5 years, after the jobs are in place and confirmed by county staff.
Lemnature AquaFarms has three locations in Indian River County, including its corporate headquarters, a research and development facility in Fellsmere, plus a large aqua farming and processing operation in western Indian River County. The company anticipates adding 46 employees to its base of 115 workers by the end of the year, at an average annual wage of $59,800, excluding benefits.
“We appreciate and value the partnerships with the chamber and its economic development office, and the board of county commissioners, as we build and scale our highly sustainable, plant-based food business and aquafarm within Indian River County,’’ said Frank Jimenez, CEO of Lemnature AquaFarms. “We believe in building innovative farming solutions to help accelerate the transition to a regenerative food system, while assisting our customers in the achievement of sustainability development goals through a more efficient agricultural process based on aquaculture.”
The company grows and processes the all-natural Lemnaceae aquatic plant, also known as water lentils, which grows in Indian River County. This aquatic plant doubles its biomass every 48 hours so harvesting can be done daily, year-round in the county’s tropical type of climate.
The company will be producing a plant-based protein and fiber to be included as ingredients in superfood drinks, protein powders and nutritional beverages. As a way to promote the company and its mission, Helene Caseltine, the chamber’s economic development director, arranged for the company’s CEO to give a presentation to the commissioners at their regular April meeting.
CORPORATE AIR OWNER NAMED BUSINESS PERSON OF THE YEAR
Rodger Pridgeon, owner and president of Corporate Air Inc., has been named the 2022 South Florida District SBA Small Business Person of the Year.
Corporate Air Inc. is a fixed base operator that provides fuel, aircraft maintenance, hangar space and charter jet services at the Vero Beach Regional Airport.
This year’s National Small Business Week awards celebrate the sacrifices and achievements of small business owners and their significant contributions to the economy and communities, according to J. Malcolm Richards, director of the SBA South Florida District.
“America’s entrepreneurs are doing their part to power our nation’s historic economic comeback,” Richards said. “Many small businesses were able to successfully pivot and with tenacity and resilience have not only survived the pandemic but have thrived. Corporate Air, under the leadership of Rodger Pridgeon, is a perfect example of such resiliency. These awards honor those in our community who have excelled in business ownership, demonstrating these virtues that are among the hallmarks of successful entrepreneurship.”
Debbie Petrell, senior vice president of Florida First Capital Finance Corp., nominated Pridgeon for the award.
“As one of many in our portfolio of exceptional small business owners, Rodger Pridgeon of Corporate Air soars as a trendsetting entrepreneur and community advocate,” Petrell said. “His leadership, innovation and commitment to the local community, both in the business and nonprofit sectors, is exemplary, and we are delighted he is this year’s award recipient.”
An aircraft maintenance technician by trade, Pridgeon grew up in western New York state and moved to Vero Beach in 1980, working for Chautauqua Airlines as director of maintenance.
Anticipating the airline’s withdrawal from the region, Pridgeon started an aircraft maintenance business on the side, transitioning into a full time job when Chautauqua Airlines closed its Vero Beach office in 1987. What began as a one-man company has grown to an award-winning, thriving business with 15 employees.
Running a successful and growing business wasn’t the only criteria considered for the award. Being an active contributor to the community was also a factor. Pridgeon served on the board of directors of the Children’s Home Society of the Treasure Coast for 10 years, including as board chairman for two years.
“Of course I’m honored to be recognized as the 2022 South Florida District SBA Small Business Person of the Year, but whether I am recognized or not, I will always continue doing what I love to do: Invest in my business, including the people who help make it happen, and in my community, which I love,” Pridgeon said.
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